Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama's Target - Wrong Judgement, Wrong Facts

John McCain:
A Legacy of
Being Wrong

By VirginiaDem

Sat May 31, 2008 - It's seems like we've got a narrative building folks. John McCain is trumpeting his experience, but it seems like all he's done in this campaign is highlight how many times he's shown a lapse in judgment and a failure to understand the facts. And about serious subjects like Iraq, the economy, ethics, and his own damn words. Wrong judgment, wrong facts. The following is a list compiled just with a few minutes of web searching. If you know of others, add them in the comments.

-- Of course, the mother of all poor judgments: his vote to authorize a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged.

-- Declaring "Mission Accomplished" a bit too early, one of a number of blown judgment about the war.

-- Admitted to being wrong in voting against MLK day, and tried to blame it one not understanding the facts about MLK as a 50 year old man.

-- Displayed a lapse in judgment by allowing lobbyist to crawl all over his campaign, leading to a mid-campaign change in his policy on employing lobbyist and firing top officials mid-stream. (Of course, he's still wrong on this issue: still taking Washington lobbyist dollars and allowing Charlie Black and Phil Gramm to rule the roost).

-- Showed an basic failure to grasp key facts about Iraq: not knowing how Iran is allied in the nation and not even knowing how many troops we have there and the security needed for our top commander or for himself.

-- Amazing showed that he doesn't even know who would be responsible for "calling" for troop shifts in the region. (Hint:it's not Petraeus).

-- Has admitted to not having enough experience economic issues, and then wrongly claimed to have never admitted saying that he lacked such experience.

-- Recently claimed he didn't think we were heading into a recession and that people are doing better than they were eight years ago. Oops.

-- Has said privatization is necessary to preserve Social Security.

On issue after issue, fact after fact, judgment call after judgment call, McCain has been as wrong as rain.

[VirginiaDem's KOS version of this has links added to each bullet point, backing it up. Go to ]


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Numbers Are Bending Our Way

Photo: Our Next First Lady

Obama's Path
to Victory in November

[While I agree with Bob's important points here, I'm still one wary of the wild card: a Black guy is getting close to being President in the good ole USA, and I'm going to see it as a 50-50 tossup until it's all over. --CarlD]

By Robert Creamer
Huffington Post

With Obama inching ever closer to clinching the Democratic nomination, some of his opponents have resorted to a campaign aimed at convincing superdelegates that, no matter how much they like him, "Obama just can't win."

In fact, the odds are good that Obama will win the Presidency. And if Democrats execute with precision during the campaign, the odds are good that he will win with a healthy margin. Here's why:

If the election were held today - before the campaign begins - polling shows that he would have very high odds of winning states with 273 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win election. More importantly, he would win this victory without needing the states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia or Florida.

The people at the website have created a statistical model to predict the odds that a candidate will win each state in the general election. The model is based on a regression analysis of recent polling and sixteen additional political and demographic factors. It assigns a likely vote spread and the numerical odds that a particular candidate will win the state. The model updates its findings regularly based on recent polling data from the state.

As the campaign begins, the model predicts that 22 states, with a total of 273 electoral votes, will go for Obama. These include the obvious states of California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and most of New England. They also include swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As it happens, the model predicts that Obama's odds of victory are no lower than 63% in any of these states.

But the model also shows that a number of additional states are right at the tipping point for Obama. Obama's odds of winning Ohio's additional 20 electoral votes are about even, at 49.8%. His odds in Nevada are 46%. His odds in New Hampshire are 45%. If he adds these three states, his total increases to 302 electoral votes.

These are the numbers before the general election campaign begins. They are based on what voters say they will do today, and on voter turnout assumptions that generally reflect past elections. They are, in other words, based on past behavior. While it is true that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it is the job of a political campaign to change that behavior. After all, if a campaign were not about changing the behavior of the voters, we should all just go to the beach for the next five months instead of knocking on doors, raising money, making speeches and all the rest.

And the odds are that this campaign, as it unfolds, will result in an even wider Obama victory.

The more people get to know Obama, the more likely it is that he will get their support. But the more they know about McCain, the less likely they are to vote his way.

Polling shows that McCain substantially outperforms a generic Republican candidate in the presidential contest. Though the Bush legacy has greatly tarnished the Republican brand, many people start out thinking that McCain is not a standard-issue Republican. Instead they view him as a "maverick," an "independent."

The problem is that the more they get to know him, the more they learn that on most of questions that really matter, especially trickle-down economics and neo-con foreign policy, McCain and Bush are twins. After all, as a Senator, McCain has voted with Bush 95% of the time.

In our polling, as people learn about McCain's record of supporting Bush's policies, they begin to drop him quicker than you can say McBush.

Every time Bush attacks Obama the way he did last week before the Israeli Knesset, he does Obama a huge favor. Anything that ties Bush to McCain - including his current fundraising tour for McCain - is a blessing. One of the campaign's biggest jobs will be to keep Bush in the message frame.

People behave just the opposite as they learn more about Obama. Obama's initial problem with some swing voters is that while they know he is charismatic, they are worried whether he is safe enough - whether he is really like them - whether he's really on their side. Barack Obama is a likable, engaging person. The more that voters know of him, the more that they see his family, the more that he becomes part of their everyday experience - the more comfortable they become with him.

In Illinois, where the voters know him best, the same demographic groups that are skeptical elsewhere give him their support.

Obama's campaign will change the electorate. It will massively increase turnout among minorities and young people.

Based on past history, Ohio has even odds of going for Obama. What happens if there is a huge spike in turnout among African Americans and young people? Obama takes Ohio by a respectable margin. The fact is that there is no plausible scenario where McCain wins in November that does not involve Ohio.

In the fall, Hispanics will not break as heavily for Obama as African Americans, but they are likely to give him a two-to-one margin. Increased Hispanic voter turnout in Nevada will tip that state for Obama and guarantee big margins in Colorado and New Mexico.

I believe that big increases in the African American and youth vote will also place a large number of other states into play including Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. By placing these traditionally Republican states into play this fall, the Obama campaign will force the Republicans to play defense on their home turf and spread their resources. When you're on the defense, you're losing. No traditionally Democratic state will really be in play.

Obama's massive small-donor fundraising base will give his campaign a huge advantage on this new, wider playing field.

In this political environment, Obama's persona and message will resonate with swing voters. Eighty percent of the voters think that America is on the wrong track. Obama is change. McCain is the past.

From the beginning of his primary campaign, Obama has had one consistent message: change you can believe in. He appeals for unity not division, for hope instead of fear, and to the fundamental premise that we're all in this together, not all in this alone. This resonates with voters tired of the division, fear and selfishness of the Bush years.

Finally, Obama's ability to inspire is a massive general election asset. Not only will it motivate his base, it will also attract independents and Republicans in record numbers. The reason is simple: when someone is inspired they feel empowered. People of all sorts want to be empowered; they want to have meaning in their lives. They want to be part of something big and important and historic.

The one thing we have learned again this year is that anything can happen in politics and those who predict with certainty will almost certainly be wrong. But if we set aside our cynicism - if we commit ourselves to victory this fall - I believe that we will all be part of something historic.

I believe that Barack Obama can win by more than 300 electoral votes and 54% or more of the popular vote. I believe that Democrats can take another 25 seats in the House and five to seven seats in the Senate. I believe that this could be a transformational election of the sort that happened last in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal that made America the most prosperous society in human history, and committed our country to all of his famous "Four Freedoms:" freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

And what's most exciting is that more than any election in modern political history, this election will be decided less by the strategies of a few political consultants than by what millions of everyday political activists do to make their mark on history over the next 161 days.

[Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book, Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on]


Monday, May 26, 2008

Obama Can Do Better on Latin America

Photo: Bolivia's Morales,
Venezuela's Chavez

Obama vs McCain
On Latin America:
Good Start, Many Flaws

Obama's speech is a call for direct dialogue and new trade deals with Latin America, but continued counterinsurgency in Columbia, tensions with Venezuela

By Tom Hayden

Barack Obama called last week for new Latin American policies in his first major policy declaration towards the region.

The speech was classic Obama, substantive, centrist, subtle, and pragmatic, above all drawing a sharp difference between Obama's support for "direct diplomacy" versus John McCain's status quo policies towards Cuba and the region.

As a measure of how far the anti-Castro Cubans have shifted towards the center, Obama's speech was praised by his Miami hosts, the Cuban American National Foundation.

As a measure of Obama's own evolution to the center from the left, however, Obama committed himself to maintaining the economic embargo of Cuba which he questioned when he ran for the US Senate in 2004.

Nevertheless, the speech will be well-received in progressive circles as a breakthrough from past policies aimed at isolation and undermining of the Cuban government. Obama also cited Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and "good neighbor" policies several times, a course proposed recently by the Progressives for Obama network*:

"What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At our best, the United States has been a force for these four freedoms in the Americas. But if we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that at times we've failed to engage the people of the region with the respect owed to a partner... "We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach. Responsibility rests with governments in the region, but we must do our part. I will substantially increase our aid to the Americas, and embrace the Millennium Development Goals of halving global poverty by 2015...

"We cannot accept trade that enriches those at the top of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the bottom. It's time to understand that the goal of our trade policy must be trade that works for all people in all countries. "Yet while there has been great economic progress, there is still back-breaking inequality. Despite a growing middle class, 100 million people live on less than two dollars a day, and 40 percent of Latin Americans live in poverty. This feeds everything from drugs, to migration, to support for leaders that appeal to the poor without delivering on their promises...That is why the United States must stand for growth in the Americas from the bottom up."

This rhetoric is sure to be welcomed as well, after many years of failed US efforts to impose corporate trade policies on Central and Latin America through NAFTA, CAFTA and the derailed FTAA. However, in the absence of government spending and regulatory measures - from Latin America, the US and wealthier nations - the Obama proposals imply a continuation of private sector economic development and modest gestures like micro-loans, education and job-training, and small business development.

But while these are positive, if cautious, policy steps, the dangerous flaw in Obama's speech was his apparent commitment to supporting the US counterinsurgency war In Columbia, secretive drug wars across the continent, and a veiled threat against Venezuela:

"We will fully support Colombia's fight against the FARC. We'll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and - if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

It should be obvious to Obama that these approaches may likely fail like the US embargo of Cuba. The US is in retreat in Latin America, its trade proposals derailed and its last military base being closed in Ecuador. But like his pledges to send more troops to Afghanistan and even attack jihadists in Pakistan [in violation of that country's declared opposition], Obama proposes to continue US military intervention in Colombia's civil war even to the point of supporting cross-border raids into Venezuela or Ecuador.

Towards Venezuela, Obama is burdened with the contradictions of the liberal national security hawks, admitting that Hugo Chavez was elected democratically but asserting that Chavez doesn't "govern democratically." Obama ignores Venezuela's own successful "bottom up" efforts to alleviate poverty with public investments from its national oil company. He further ignores Venezuela's own voters' recent ballot box rejection of a sweeping Chavez initiative. Like many liberal hawks, Obama differs with the Bush Administration's attacks on Chavez because they are ineffective:

"Yet the Bush Administration's blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand."

Not a word about US complicity in the attempted coup against Chavez, nor the remarkable Venezuelan mass movement that resisted that coup. In the extreme discomfort of American centrists, including the media, at accepting the democratically-chosen government of Venezuela with all its various shortcomings, one can see a lingering imperial assumption beneath all rhetoric to the contrary. It can be said, of course, that Chavez, with his own blustering rhetoric, doesn't make liberal centrist acceptance easier. But there is an understandable history here, not only the old history of Conquest and Monroe Doctrine, but the immediate history of the 2002 attempted overthrow of Chavez with American complicity.

If Barack Obama can ask us to better understand the black anger of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, surely he himself should be able to understand the volcanic rage which echoes in voices like those of Hugo Chavez and, before him, Fidel Castro, across Latin America. According to sources in Caracas and Havana, Hugo Chavez himself may privately dismiss all this Venezuela-bashing as mere US election year posturing. "If it helps Obama get elected, okay, we'll talk later", in the paraphrase of one close observer. But Obama could sink himself in a US counterinsurgency quagmire in Columbia, which could spiral into greater tensions with Venezuela and Ecuador. He seems to believe Colombia is America's democratic gift to Latin America, when most in the region view it as the client state serving as an outpost of Yanqui military intervention.

There is a better alternative that Obama and his advisers ignore, the distinct possibility that the anti-government guerrilla movement in Columbia [FARC] is being gradually convinced to evolve into a political force, as the IRA did in Northern Ireland. The FARC was born in a time of civil wars and military juntas across the continent, but in recent years many [former] revolutionary and guerilla leaders have swept to power democratically, from Nicaragua to Uruguay to Bolivia. The conditions for transforming the armed conflict in Colombia into a political one, while difficult, have never been more favorable. A negotiated political outcome is in the interests of Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba and neighboring countries.

But that prospect will be dimmed if if an Obama administration continues promoting a one-sided victory a Uribe government riddled with its own death squads and drug traffickers, protected with American money, American arms and US Special Forces. [The recent extradiction of several Columbia drug traffickers to the US was an effort to secure a trade deal, not to change the essential character of the regime in Bogota]. To make matters worse, Obama endorses the drug war paradigm that street gangs are the new enemy:

"As President, I'll make it clear that we're coming after the guns, we're coming after the money laundering, and we're coming after the vehicles that enable this crime. And we'll crack down on the demand for drugs in our own communities, and restore funding for drug task forces and the COPS program. We must win the fights on our own streets if we're going to secure the region."
This formulation is upside down. Street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha or 18th Street are symptomatic of the overall crisis of poverty, discrimination and repression in which the US has collaborated in Central and Latin America. These particular street gangs were created in places like Los Angeles among hundreds of thousands of child refugees of the US-sponsored Central American wars. They formed gangs for security and identity, they become involved in the drug trade because there were no legitimate job opportunities for undocumented exiles, and they became violent because they were born and raised in the trauma of war.

Of course, it is legitimate both in terms of policy and politics for Obama to defend a law enforcement approach as part of the mix, but a war on gangs, like a war on drugs, is hopeless, counter-productive and immoral without a war on the greed that is devouring hundreds of millions of young people in Latin America. The funding to "win the fights on our own streets" would eclipse any budgets for jobs or education for inner city youth. The irony should not forgotten either that the US has been involved in corruption, dictatorships and the drug trade, from the casinos of Havana in the 1950s to cocaine sales on the streets of LA that funded weapons for the Contras in the 1980s.

Finally, Obama's vision of the region as a more equal partnership will be tested by the ambitious energy development plan dropped into his speech, The rhetoric appears balanced, but in the context of existing power relationships the outcome could deepen Latin America's role, once again, as a resource colony of the United States.

"We'll allow industrial emitters to offset a portion of this cost by investing in low carbon energy projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. And we'll increase research and development across the Americas in clean coal technology, in the next generation of sustainable biofuels not taken from food crops, and in wind and solar energy. We'll enlist the World Bank, the Organization of American States, and the Inter-American Development Bank to support these investments, and ensure that these projects enhance natural resources like land, wildlife, and rain forests. We'll finally enforce environmental standards in our trade deals."

The best that can be said of this speech is that it's a brave beginning, a break from Bush, and that the progressive changes sweeping Latin America hopefully may educate and move Obama towards a far greater partnership project than he now envisions. Obama, it should be emphasized, has never been to Latin America, and his book, Audacity of Hope, passes over the region in its chapter on "The World Beyond Our Borders", even though it was written at a time of democratic upheaval across the continent.

The lack of a powerful progressive Latin American lobby in the US, combined with his lack of engagement there, means Obama will be surrounded by advisers who believe the US is the hegemon. By comparison, FDR was bolder than Obama in his "good neighbor" policy. He rejected US military interventions, and supported Mexico's nationalization of its oil resources against the lobbying pressure of the US multinationals. Obama's position is reminiscent of the early John Kennedy, who trapped himself at the Bay of Pigs, glamorized the Special Forces, and offered a centrist Alliance for Progress as America's answer to the Cuban model in Latin America. Instead of yielding reform, the mano duro policies of dictatorships and death squads swept the region with US support and training for repressive army and police forces.

Now that Latin America, on its own, has swept those dictatorships away and is following its own democratic path, it is presumptuous of Obama to propose himself as the protector of Latin America from Hugo Chavez, guerrillas and drug lords, all of them symptomatic responses to US policies over many decades.

[* NOTE. In its founding call, Progressives for Obama demanded a new Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America, as follows: "Nor can we impose NAFTA-style trade agreements on so many nations that seek only to control their own national resources and economic destinies. We cannot globalize corporate and financial power over democratic values and institutions. Since the Clinton Administration pushed through NAFTA against the Democratic majority in Congress, one Latin American nation after another has elected progressive governments that reject US trade deals and hegemony. We are isolated in Latin America by our Cold War and drug war crusades, by the $500 million counter-insurgency in Columbia, support for the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, and the ineffectual blockade of Cuba. We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which rejected Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico's right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry opposition. The pursuit of NAFTA-style trade policies inflames our immigration crisis as well, by uprooting countless campesinos who inevitably seek low-wage jobs north of the border in order to survive. We need balanced and democratically-approved trade agreements that focus on the needs of workers, consumers and the environment. The Banana Republic is a retail chain, not an American colony protected by the Monroe Doctrine."]


Friday, May 23, 2008

Independence and Organization

Photo: Bill Fletcher, Jr.

'Healthy Tension':
Report on P4O
Meeting in D.C.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Last night (5/22) a Progressives for Obama event was held at a restaurant in DC. We had about 40 people and collected about $400 for the campaign. Speaking were myself and the noted writer Barbara Ehrenreich.

The meeting had several aims including, winning over progressives who were not yet committed to the campaign, as well as encouraging both financial contributions and volunteer work. Because the meeting had people who were both already committed as well as those who were ambivalent there was a certain level of 'tension' that existed that I believe was actually quite healthy.

I found it important to note how it was that I came to support Obama. Barbara Ehrenreich also explained her journey as well as how supporting Obama was not inconsistent with being a feminist.
Where things became interesting was in our willingness to express where we have had (and continue to have) disagreements with Senator Obama, in my case, around certain matters of foreign policy (e.g., the Middle East). Nevertheless, we discussed the potential opening that the Obama campaign presents for progressives.

This opening does not mean that we abandon our disagreements, but rather that we understand the 'moment' and the opportunities it presents. One critical issue that came up in various forms was the concern about what comes next, i.e., what happens after November whether we win or not. In fact, an individual came up to me and stated that she was not convinced that she and others should support Obama rather than voting with their hearts.

This led into an important, though incomplete, discussion concerning the need to build independent, mass electoral organizations that are guided by progressive politics.

(Note: This was a major theme of the article that Danny Glover and I wrote about in our article in The Nation in 2/2005--"Visualizing a Neo-Rainbow").

I walked away from the evening feeling very strongly that while the Progressives for Obama motion should NOT attempt to be an organization as such, there is a critical need to think about post-November and the long-term strategic need for a mass, progressive electoral formation.

I believe that many of us share the worry that a victory could be Pyrrhic if we lack the vitality to build a progressive force that can halt slippage to the Right by the Senator from the great state of Illinois, should he be elected; or for that matter, to resist any pro-active efforts to the Right should someone from the dark side of the Force be elected.

[Bill Fletcher, Jr. is co-author of "Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice" See:]


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Upside of Struggle

Photo: Obama, Richardson

Why The Long
Primary Battle
Helps Obama

By Robert Creamer
Huffington Post

Listen to the talking heads drone endlessly about Obama's drubbing in Kentucky and Clinton's superior appeal among working class whites in Appalachia, and it is hard not to believe that the continuing primary battle won't hurt Obama in the fall. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here's why:

It will all be over soon enough. Notwithstanding his loss in Kentucky, his big win in Oregon put Obama at 1,957 delegates, according to That is only 69 delegates from the magic number of 2,026 set by Democratic Party rules to clinch the nomination. There are only 301 delegates left to allocate, of which 215 are superdelegates. Obama just needs 23% of those remaining delegates.

Now that Obama has accumulated an absolute majority of the elected, pledged delegates, the already steady movement of superdelegates to his column will increase. It is likely he will pick up at least 36 delegates in the remaining three primaries. That would leave him needing only 33 more superdelegates, which he would pick up in a couple of days.

Even if the Rules Committee of the DNC seats all of the delegates from Michigan and Florida, the math doesn't materially change. Let's say the Committee allocated 10% more of the Michigan and Florida delegates to Clinton than Obama. Between them, Michigan and Florida would have had 366 delegates -- so that would only net Clinton 37 delegates. Even that would leave Obama needing only one in three of the superdelegates remaining today after the last primary -- and remember that since Super Tuesday he has far outstripped Clinton in the proportion of superdelegates he has accumulated.

The long Democratic primary season has engaged millions of new voters. Every night in most big cities the sportscast reports the hockey scores. For the many people who don't follow hockey, those scores go in one ear and out the other. They don't stick. The same is true for most normal people when it comes to politics, at least until this spring.

Now millions of formerly non-political Americans have started following politics. The primaries have become the most engaging reality TV show around. They've become a sporting event, a drama. My formerly non-political life insurance agent came to see me last week. She's never done anything political in her life. Now she's hooked. She wants to volunteer for Obama.
This new engagement in the Democratic contest is a bonanza for our prospects this fall. In Indiana, the combined Democratic primary turnout was 129% of the total voter that John Kerry got in the general election in 2004. That is unheard of.

History shows that once people vote in Democratic primaries they are much more likely to vote Democratic in general elections.

In general, people are more likely to "act themselves" into a belief or commitment than to be convinced by argument. The 80,000 people who attended the Portland rally for Obama would never have gone had there not been a long primary to necessitate it. The act of attending that rally will do more than dozens of commercials will do to guarantee their commitment and their passion for the Democratic candidate this fall.

The same is true for the tens of thousands who banged on doors or picked up the phone - or argued with a neighbor about the campaign.

The long primary has forced the Obama campaign to develop organizations in all 50 states. Generally, presidential campaigns develop organizations in a few primary states and then go on to develop organizations in the few "in-play" general election states. By forcing Obama to create organizations in every state, the long primary season has helped enormously to broaden the general election playing field. This year, there will be strong, experienced Obama organizations in every state in America.

The battle has hugely increased Democratic registration. In-play states like Nevada that started the year with a majority of Republican registrants, now have a majority of Democrats. The New York Times reports that well over half of new registrants in Oregon were 30 or younger, and that of the 83,000 voters who changed parties this year, a large majority switched to Democratic.

The long primary fight has battle-hardened the Obama organization. Most of Obama's top field people have now been through four or five tough primary contests. That experience has taught even the greenest organizer to "think like a political organizer." It has taught thousands of organizers and volunteers the nuances of political organizing that are only learned through practice.

Great organizations are more than the sum of their parts. They develop distinct values and procedures that combine to form strong organizational cultures. The problem with political organizations is that they are "thrown together." Strong cultures need time to develop. The long primary season has provided that time and practice. It will massively strengthen our ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of volunteers and millions of voters in the fall.

The continuing primary drama has swelled the number of individual Obama donors. Obama received contributions from 200,000 new donors last month alone. The huge Internet fund raising base will provide a massive political advantage over McCain this fall. It would never have grown so large had the primary battle not continued.

The long primary campaign has battle hardened the candidate. Great long distance runners train for the Olympics by running in the mountains where the oxygen is thin. The tough contest has sharpened Obama's already formidable skills and those of his top advisers as well.

The most difficult issues have already been vetted. The tough primary forced the Reverend Wright controversy -- and the issue of race in general -- to be fully examined by the media and public. The same goes for other standard Republican attacks. Much better that these issues be raised in March than in October. Much better that the voters see Obama win primaries -- and win the nomination -- after dealing with these issues. And of course, it has given Americans the chance to get used to the idea of an African American president.

For many Americans that has happened. While Obama might have less appeal than Clinton among working class white Appalachians, he won 57% of the white vote in mostly-white Oregon -- including 53% of those earning under $50,000 per year.

Obama's big trump card in the fall election is his ability to change the electorate - to register and mobilize millions of voters who have not voted before. The long primary season has set the stage for a fall campaign that does just that. It will place dozens of new states into play. It will change the formula for winning traditional swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
In the end, the long primary season has set the stage for what could be a transformational election that sweeps Obama into the presidency, and substantially bolsters Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

[Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on]


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To Obama: Stiffen Up, Fight Back

Photo: McCain during 'Bomb, Bomb Iran' Song

It's About
War and Peace,
Not Simply
Race and Gender

By Tom Hayden
Huffington Post

May 20, 2008 - The decisive issue in this election is about war and peace, between Barack Obama's proposed diplomacy with Iran to end the war in Iraq, and the hawkish stance of his two rivals, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who favor an escalating the tensions with Tehran even to the point of war.

The mainstream media, and some of the blogosphere, continue to miss the danger of an escalated war as they blog and dabble over race, gender and numbers of pledged delegates.
The antiwar movement and most Democrats have been fairly silent about these differences as well.

The facts, however, are simple, as follows:

The Bush administration, many neo-conservatives, and Israeli officials have busily built the case that Iran is an "existential threat," and that the coming months represent a "now or never" moment to attack Iran before a new president takes office.

With sufficient US political and military backing, the Israelis seem set to go.

Clinton has voted to identify Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist organization." The White House and Gen. Petraeus have asserted that Iran is directly and indirectly responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq. Those two elements are a sufficient cause to go to war.

Clinton has said the US could "obliterate" Iran if they attacked Israel, and threatens "massive retaliation" to protect Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran. There has been virtually no media discussion of this NATO-like proposal for the Middle East.

Both Clinton and McCain deride Obama's offer to open unconditional talks with Iran. Obama himself appears to be adjusting, or backing away, from his original straightforward proposal. He needs to stiffen, realize this is what the election is about, and fight back, with allies at his side.
Instead of stumbling over the nature of direct diplomacy [with whom, where, with what preparations], Obama should rely on his strongest arguments.

The bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Study Group proposed US-Iran negotiations as essential to finding a political solution in Iraq. Former CIA chief John Deutch says the same thing. Iraq needs a non-aggression agreement and trade with the US; in return, the US needs Iran's acceptance of an orderly withdrawal from Iraq without the country falling into greater civil war. The issue of nuclear power needs to be negotiated on a separate track, according to Baker-Hamilton.

Barack should not seem to over-promise the results of diplomacy, which could provoke more attacks on his resolve and experience. But he can easily remain assertive against the failed and obviously hypocritical notion of never talking to our adversaries.

It's more simple than he says.

John Kennedy talked with Nikita Khrushchev, and nuclear war was averted.
Richard Nixon talked with Mao tse-Tung, and commercial competition replaced a military confrontation.

Look where non-talking gets us. We refuse to talk to Cuba, leaving us diplomatically and commercially isolated from the continent and world.

As for rank hypocrisy, the Bush administration is already talking with North Korea and, in a limited way, with Iran.

The possibility of avoiding a broader war may rest on whether Obama wins this debate.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oregon: Obama 58%, Clinton 42%

Oregon: Putting
'White Worker'
Problem To Rest?

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post

Since much ink has been spent on Sen. Barack Obama's troubles with the white working class vote - "[it has been] painted as a fatal flaw in his campaign," as Keith Olberman noted - it is important to note that the Senator had big time success among that very constituency in Oregon's primary on Tuesday.

White voters - the only ones in the exit polls because the state is so homogeneous - went to the Senator in overwhelming numbers. In fact, every age group, except those older than 60, preferred Obama to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama, in addition, won the majority of voters whose total family incomes where less than $50,000 as well as all income groups, save for the smallest: $15,000 to $29,999. Union households, moreover, went to Obama by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent.

Clinton, as has traditionally proven the case, bested Obama among those Oregon voters whose highest level of education was a high school degree, by a margin of 53 to 44 percent. But among Catholics, which have proven to be, perhaps, Clinton's largest and most sturdy contingent of supporters, Obama actually did better: 49 to 48 percent.

So what to make of it all? For starters, the conventional wisdom that Obama has a working class white problem should probably be replaced with the argument, which Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed to, that he has an Appalachia problem. Finally, it has to be at the very least noted that race is a factor, at least in some regions of the country. Ten percent of Oregon Democratic primary voters said that race was an important issue. Of that group, however, 51 percent still supported Obama.

In Kentucky, by contrast, 21 percent of primary-goers cited race as an important issue in their voting decision. Of that group, 81 percent supported Clinton.

[Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at]


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Building the Best Winning Ticket

Photo: Is Obama-Webb Possible?

Who’s the
VP Choice?

[Register your choice in our poll, right column]

By Tom Hayden

Progressives should weigh in now on the vice-presidential choices facing Barack Obama. If all progressives are united for or against a particular candidate, we can be a factor in the mix ahead.
The choice needs to be someone who [a] wins a state or two that Obama might not win on his own, [b] wins over the Clinton voter constituency, and [c] can placate traditional party leaders.

But from a progressive perspective, the choice also should be someone with Obama’s instinct for organizing a majority progressive movement, not someone who revives the fading pro-business, pro-war DLC. The ticket should excite even more people around Obama’s vision of a reclaimed democracy from below, not someone who will dampen the enthusiasm. Here are my thoughts:

1. BILL RICHARDSON could help win New Mexico and Colorado, and increase overall Obama turnout among Latinos. Good credentials. Good on issues. Able to ensure that the Obama Administration pays attention to Latin America. Needs to be vetted further. Conventional wisdom is that a "two-fer" [black and brown] won’t work. Go for it unless the vetting turns up problems, otherwise give him a Cabinet post.

2 JAMES WEBB. Good credentials: military, former Republican, Navy Secretary under Reagan. Relatively good on issues like war, economy, outsider and independent. Might mean losing Virginia Senate seat in future. But if he guarantees Virginia for Obama and helps in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, take the chance.

JOHN EDWARDS. Attorney General, not VP.

HILLARY CLINTON. While she has to be on the short list, and while weird bedfellows are not unusual, this is to be avoided if at all possible. The incompatibilities are too great, and the turnoff factor would be a problem. It is not clear that she would bring a state that Obama couldn’t capture on his own, assuming that many Hillary voters turn to McCain. She might prefer her independence in the Senate.

[Proposed Clinton surrogates include TED STRICKLAND, EVAN BAYH, and WESLEY CLARK, shadows of the DLC. WEBB might do as well as Strickland in Ohio. Bayh not likely to carry Indiana. Clark brings military credentials and has close relationship with Obama’s former advisor Samantha Power, but will he carry Arkansas or any other state?]


Friday, May 16, 2008

Building A Winning Coalition

Media Blackout
of John Edwards
Poverty Campaign

By Peter Dreier
Huffington Post
May 15, 2008

On Tuesday, the day before he announced his support for Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards launched a campaign to cut the nation's poverty rate in half in the next ten years.

You can be excused if you hadn't heard about it.

Only one major daily newspaper -- the Philadelphia Inquirer -- covered the event, which took place at a Baptist church in North Philadelphia. (Larry King on CNN, Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" on NBC-TV, and Michele Norris on NPR interviewed Edwards about the topic in recent days, but they were more interested in whether he was going to endorse Obama or Clinton).

On Wednesday, of course, Edwards' presidential endorsement lead the nightly news, rocketed through the blogosphere, and landed on the front pages Thursday morning. Once again, "horse race" journalism prevailed over policy ideas aimed at addressing serious problems.

Edwards' endorsement of Obama, which took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is certainly major news. But the complete failure of the media to cover Edwards' anti-poverty event tells us a great deal about what the journalistic establishment considers important.

When Obama and Hillary Clinton made their pilgrimages to Edwards' home in North Carolina in February to solicit his endorsement, he told them he wanted to see their campaigns pay more attention to poverty. At the Philadelphia event, Edwards -- along with representatives of the community organizing group ACORN, the Center for American Progress, Coalition on Human Needs, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights -- launched what they called the Half in Ten campaign. Edwards said he wanted the candidates to commit themselves to the goal of reducing poverty in half within ten years. (At the endorsement event the following day, Obama embraced the Edwards proposal.)

In 2006, 36.5 million Americans -- 12.3 percent of the population -- lived on incomes below the official poverty line -- about $20,400 for a family of four. Few media stories point out that among the world's affluent nations (primarily Canada, Japan, Australia, and the countries of Western Europe), the U.S. has the highest poverty rate (more than twice that of many European countries) and by far the widest gap between the rich and poor.

The number of Americans in poverty has increased by almost 5 million since George Bush took office. And if the poverty threshold was raised by 25 percent -- to $25,555 for a family of four -- which many economists think is a more realistic figure, the number of Americans in poverty would increase to almost 50 million, about 17 percent of the population.

More than a third of America's poor are children under 18. A growing number of the poor are working in low-wage jobs. A declining proportion of those jobs provide health insurance.

After his defeat as John Kerry's running mate in the 2004 election, Edwards created a center on poverty and work at the University of North Carolina. He began criss-crossing the country speaking at union rallies, joining picket lines and campaigns to raise the minimum wage and visiting homeless shelters, low-income housing developments and emergency food banks -- hardly the typical path to the White House.

When he announced his campaign for president, he did so in an impoverished area of New Orleans, a neighborhood hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. During his presidential campaign, which ended nearly four months ago, he tried to shine a spotlight on poverty. As one of the leading candidates for his party's nomination, Edwards was able in July to get reporters to follow him on a three-day, eight-state, 1,800-mile poverty tour that included stops in New Orleans, Kentucky, Mississippi, Cleveland and elsewhere.

Many of the stories that came out of that tour focused on the human side of poverty, and on the candidate's policy ideas. But others reflected journalistic cynicism, viewing Edwards' anti-poverty crusade as simply a political gambit to grab attention. They failed to mention that none of the eight states on Edwards' poverty tour were among the key early primary states that would make or break his bid for the White House. Newsweek reporter Jonathan Darman wrote that Edwards' calls to reduce poverty "sound like more empty promises from a politician."

No longer a politician, Edwards this week called poverty "a moral cause facing every single one of us" in the United States. "What we do for each other says something about who we are," Edwards said, speaking at the Thankful Baptist Church. "It says something about our character."

The Half in Ten campaign will focus on policy solutions identified in the Center for American Progress' poverty task force report (pdf) issued last year. These include expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit; raising both state and federal minimum wages; increasing the number of low-income families receiving child care assistance; increasing eligibility for unemployment insurance; and preventing predatory lending practices and preserving home ownership.

The last time the U.S. committed itself to dramatically tackling poverty was during the early 1960s.

At the time, progressives like Rev. Martin Luther King and United Auto Workers union president Walter Reuther advised Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to champion a bold federal program for full employment that would include government-funded public works and the conversion of the nation's defense industry to production for civilian needs. This, they argued, would dramatically address the nation's poverty population, create job opportunities for the poor and the near-poor (including blacks living in America's ghettos), and rebuild the nation's troubled cities without being as politically divisive as a federal program identified primarily as serving poor blacks. We often forget that the theme of the 1963 March on Washington-- at which King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and which the UAW backed with both money and marchers-- was "jobs and justice."

Johnson's announcement of an ''unconditional war on poverty'' in his 1964 State of the Union Address was, in reality, a patchwork of small initiatives that did not address the nation's basic inequalities. Testifying before Congress in April 1964, Reuther said that ''while [the proposals] are good, [they] are not adequate, nor will they be successful in achieving their purposes, except as we begin to look at the broader problems [of the American economy].'' He added that ''poverty is a reflection of our failure to achieve a more rational, more responsible, more equitable distribution of the abundance that is within our grasp.'' Despite these valid criticisms, the programs Johnson and Congress put in place in the 1960s bore fruit. Indeed, the nation's War on Poverty, which President Johnson launched in 1964, was making steady progress until it was detoured by the other war-- in Vietnam. In 1960, when Kennedy was elected, 22 percent of Americans lived below the official poverty line. By 1968, that number had dropped dramatically, to 12.8 percent-- a result of a combination of general economic prosperity and anti-poverty policies like raising the minimum wage, creating public works jobs, providing job training programs, raising Social Security benefits, and launching Medicare and Medicaid. By 1973, the nation's poverty rate had fallen to 11.1 percent, an all-time low.

Since then, poverty has increased, but now the dilemma of poverty is linked to the broader problem of widening inequality and declining living standards for the middle class. In contrast to the 1960s and early 1970s, when the rich, middle class and poor all shared in the nation's prosperity, America today has the biggest concentration of income and wealth since 1928. Headlines about outrageous compensation packages for corporate CEOs have focused attention on the concentration of wealth at the top. The share of income going to the richest 1 percent of families has doubled since 1980, while their federal tax burden has fallen by a third. Meanwhile, a growing number of working families are now in debt, while the number facing foreclosure has spiraled. American workers face declining job security and retirement security. College tuition is increasingly out of reach, while government aid has shrunk. The cost of housing, food, gas, health care, and other necessities is rising faster than incomes. Between 2000 and 2007, median weekly earnings increased by 0.6 percent, while the cost of a typical home grew by 72.2 percent.

Starting in the 1970s, an effective business-sponsored rightwing attack on "big government" social spending, and efforts to stereotype the poor as lazy welfare cheats, undermined support for policies to help lift people out of poverty. Americans are now tired of Bush's noblesse oblige prescriptions for addressing poverty -- like encouraging people to donate to charity and volunteer at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. They want a new social compact that requires people to work, corporations to act responsibly, and government to protect people during tough times with a stronger safety net.

Americans are more receptive than they've been in decades to a new effort to address the widening economic divide, including poverty, according a recent report, Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, from the reputable Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The study found that 69 percent of Americans-- including 58 percent of Republicans-- now believe that "government should care for those who can't care for themselves". Also, 69 percent of Americans -- including 83 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 47 percent of Republicans-believe that the government "should provide food and shelter for all." According to the Pew report, more than half of Americans-- including 68 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independents, and 34 percent of Republicans-- believe that "government should help the needy even if it means greater debt." These are all significantly higher figures than during the mid-1990s.

Polls also show that support for labor unions has reached its highest level in more than three decades. Since welfare reform was enacted in 1996, Americans have viewed poverty primarily through the prism of working conditions. A few years ago, surveys revealed that a vast majority of Americans wanted to raise the federal minimum wage, which had been stuck at $5.15 an hour since 1997. After they won a majority in Congress in 2006, the Democrats hiked the federal minimum wage to $7.25, still below the poverty line, but an improvement.

The popularity of Barbara Ehrenreich's book about the working poor, Nickle and Dimed, and TV shows like The Wire, as well as the growing challenges to Wal-Mart for its low-wage policies, and the remarkable growth of the "living wage" movement (about 200 cities have now adopted such laws) reflect an upsurge of concern that America is in the midst of another Gilded Age-- a concern bubbling up from the grassroots, and just now surfacing in our national political life. But most of the media are entirely out of touch with these sentiments and with a burgeoning activist movement for reform.

Until Obama gets elected -- and perhaps appoints Edwards as his poverty czar-- it appears that the new grassroots war on poverty won't be televised.

[Peter Dreier is professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and coauthor of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City.]


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oppose Blocking The Vote!

Photo: Indiana Nuns Prevented
from Voting by Picture ID Test

'Proof' To Vote
On The Rise

By Erin Ferns
Project Vote
May 15, 2008

Requiring proof-of-citizenship in order to register to vote is the latest addition to voter suppression arsenal.

Spurred by Arizona’s 2004 implementation of proof of citizenship requirements and the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold Indiana's strict voter ID law, proof of citizenship bills - often coupled with voter ID - are gaining traction across the country.

With more than 13 million Americans lacking ready access to citizenship documentation and scant evidence of voter registration fraud by non-citizens (or any voter for that matter) leading to illegal votes, proof of citizenship requirements could have a significant impact on the electorate. Wasting no time after the high court's decision, the neighboring states of Kansas and Missouri have swiftly moved forward with efforts to pass such legislation that could take effect in the November election.

Missouri's HJR 48 – a constitutional amendment to require proof of identification at the polls – also requires proof of citizenship in order register to vote. As the New York Times reported on the front page Monday, "sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship."

Missouri's own Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan estimates 300,000 voters could be disenfranchised this November for what she considers to be a Republican wild goose chase for "'mythical problems,'" according to and the Associated Press, respectively.

Carnahan questions the type of "voter fraud" cited by advocates – including the ultimately rectified voter registration of a dog – as none of it would be resolved by voter ID, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune: "Have we had instances of improper voting registrations? Yes. Have we had instances of improper absentee voting? Yes. Is this government ID to vote going to impact any of those? No."

Carnahan said there have been no reports of voter impersonation fraud in the state, rendering requirements to prove citizenship to register and identity to vote useless at best and disenfranchising at worst.

The situation in Missouri is especially urgent as the state Senate must decide the fate of the constitutional amendment before the legislative session ends Friday. And even if the amendment fails to come to a vote, the governor has the option to call a special session just to consider this highly partisan (it passed in the Missouri State House on a strict party-line vote) measure. Advocatesare preparing for the worst and gearing up to fight the amendment at the ballot box in August.

Rapidly progressing proof-of-citizenship/voter ID hybrid legislation is not exclusive to Missouri. Last week, Kansas' legislature approved HB 2019, a measure to require both proof of citizenship at registration from first-time applicants and voter ID from all voters at the polls. Despite approval by the legislature, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office is expected to veto the bill "as she has other voter ID legislation in the past," according to the Wichita Eagle.

"To its earliest proponents, voter registration was intended as an anti-fraud safeguard" and occurrences of fraud have been rare, according to Project Vote report, "The Politics of Voter Fraud." According to the report, between 2002 and 2005, 21 non-citizens were prosecuted for voter registration fraud across the country. Four of these were dismissed, one was acquitted, three pleaded guilty and thirteen were convicted.

And despite their best efforts, the federal government was only able to secure convictions of 11 non citizens for voting illegally during the same period. That is to say, 11 votes out of 214 million cast for federal elections were by non citizens.

In addition to allegedly preventing the rare crimes of voter registration fraud and voter impersonation fraud - crimes for which there are already laws on the books to prevent - citizenship and ID requirements create obstacles for many Americans who want to participate in the democratic electoral process. Polling data by a Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law survey found that 13 million individuals were without ready access to citizenship documentation, including birth certificate, passports and naturalization papers.

Currently, only Arizona requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. Since adopting the measure in 2004, more than 38,000 voter registration applications have been thrown out, according to the New York Times. "More than 70 percent of those registrations came from people who stated under oath that they were born in the United States, the data showed."

To date, Project Vote has monitored proof-of-citizenship bills introduced in 19 states, including Kansas' HB 2019 and Missouri's HJR 48. Currently, 11 states have pending proof of citizenship legislation. To track these bills, visit Project Vote election bill tracking website,

The following states are considering proof of citizenship requirements at registration as of May 15, 2008: Calif., Ill., Kan., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.Y., Okla., S.C., and Tenn.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Battleground Report - Oregon

Photo: Oregon AFSCME Workers Rally for Obama

Obama Lead
in Oregon
'Very Big'

By Steve Law
The Portland Tribune

May 13, 2008-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are locked in a battle for the Oregon Democratic primary election. A new poll shows Obama way ahead in the state.

A bit more than a week away from Oregon’s May 20 primary, Barack Obama has amassed a nearly insurmountable lead in the Democratic presidential race, according to statewide polling conducted by Portland’s Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall Inc. for the Portland Tribune and FOX 12 News.

The U.S. senator from Illinois leads Hillary Clinton by a commanding 55 percent to 35 percent margin among likely Democratic voters, and even leads among women voters who ordinarily tilt toward Clinton, said Tim Hibbitts of Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall. The poll was conducted May 8-10, during and after visits to Oregon by Obama and Clinton.

"Barring a disaster, Barack Obama’s going to win Oregon, and he may win it very big," said Hibbitts, one of Oregon’s most respected nonpartisan pollsters. "This is the widest lead that I’ve seen of any poll for Obama in Oregon," he said. "I’d be shocked if Obama didn’t win here."

Clinton’s slim hopes of gaining the Democratic nomination could rely on sweeping all six remaining primaries, Hibbitts said. Oregon’s May 20 primary could prove crucial in the nominating battle if Clinton wins, as expected, in West Virginia tonight and Kentucky on May 20.
"Obama needs a counterbalancing win, and Oregon looks like it’s here to provide it for him," Hibbitts said.

That could give Obama an important psychological advantage as he tries to woo remaining uncommitted superdelegates, Hibbitts said. Those are elected officials and party insiders who are awarded automatic votes at the Democrats’ nominating convention this summer.

The poll results and recent events suggest this could be Oregon’s most influential presidential primary in 40 years, when Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy were fighting for the Democratic nomination, Hibbitts said.

Davis, Hibbitts & Midgall Inc. interviewed 400 likely Democratic voters across the state. Its poll has a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points, meaning the numbers could be off by that amount in either direction.

Results showed that Obama’s lead over Clinton, the former first lady and a U.S. senator from New York, was similar in Portland, in the rest of the Willamette Valley, and in the rest of the state.

Clinton enjoys the sympathies of more Democratic voters over 55, the poll showed. But Obama is crushing her among voters 18 to 34 and 35 to 54. In both age groups, Obama leads by more than 2-to-1, according to poll results.

"Right now Obama’s winning across the board," Hibbitts said. "He’s winning by 11 points among women; He’s leading by 30 points among men."

Obama’s reputation among Democratic voters aged 18 to 34 is off the charts. Among that group, a whopping 86 percent said they held favorable views of Obama, versus only 1 percent who said they had unfavorable views. In comparison, 68 percent of those voters had favorable views about Clinton, versus 13 percent with unfavorable views.

Not surprisingly, the poll showed Oregon Democrats don’t hold President Bush in high regard.
Among all age groups, 75 percent of Democrats had "very unfavorable" views about Bush and 9 percent had "somewhat unfavorable" views. Only 11 percent had favorable views.

Presumed Republican nominee John McCain has more support among Oregon Democrats, About 22 percent held favorable views about the Arizona senator, while 32 percent held "very unfavorable" views and 27 percent had "somewhat unfavorable views."

Democrat Stephen Tollefson, a 57-year-old freelance writer from St. Johns, told pollsters he favors Obama.

"He seems fresh. He seems different. He seems intelligent," Tollefson said in a follow-up interview. "He doesn’t seem to have as much political baggage and special-interest connections as the other candidates."

Tollefson said he doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton, and blames her husband for paving the way for George Bush’s election as his successor.

"I think she’s an opportunistic politician who would say or do anything to get elected, and I think she and Bill Clinton had their chance at the White House and blew it," Tollefson said.

Ralph Griffin, 81, a retired heavy equipment operator who lives near David Douglas High in east Portland, told pollsters he favors Clinton in the primary.

"She has the experience and I can’t go along with McCain," he said. "Obama’s too new. He’s had two years in the Senate and he didn’t accomplish anything."

Mail-in ballots are due May 20 for Oregon’s primary. As of mid-day Monday, 271,065 Oregonians had cast ballots, about 13 percent of the electorate. That includes Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Remaining Democratic primaries:
May 13: West Virginia
May 20: Oregon and Kentucky
June 1: Puerto Rico
June 3: Montana and South Dakota


Monday, May 12, 2008

Playing The 'White Male' Identity Card

Photo: PA Workers
at Obama Rally

Why Celebrate

Hillary Clinton

As 'Brawler?'

By Tom Hayden

There are few writers I respect more, and have learned more from, than Susan Faludi. But she dangerously dismisses racism as a factor in drawing white male voters to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in her New York Times op-ed essay this week . Instead she endorses Clinton’s archetype as a "brawler" who gets "down with the boys" as a model for women candidates in the future.

Sorting out sharply-different perceptions is essential to winning in November, and my comments are intended in that spirit.

Clinton has repeatedly criticized Obama for a "pattern" of failing to win the votes of "hard-working Americans, white Americans." Her campaign consultants fanned the flames of the Rev. Wright controversy with reporters behind the scenes for months. In Indiana, she accepted the support of the Rush Limbaugh crossover wreckers, and won 65-70 percent of voters who described themselves as "conservative" or "very conservative." In Pennsylvania, she won the support of the voters Gov. Ed Rendell once described as uncomfortable voting for a black presidential candidate. Many if not most of these Clinton voters plan to vote for John McCain in the fall.

Yet Faludi writes dismissively that "pundits" [read: vapid commentators] "attribute the erosion in Barack Obama’s white male support to a newfound racism." What, I wonder, does this most elegant of writers mean by "newfound racism"? Whether it is "new" or "new-found" is irrelevant. Ten percent of white voters openly say they would vote against Obama on the basis of race. That’s the "old" racism. Many other white voters correctly resent the label "racist", because they have rejected notions of racial superiority. But their discomfort with Obama cannot be completely separated from subterreanean racial dynamics. They are naturally quicker to merge Barack Obama with Pastor Wright than John McCain with the anti-Catholic Minister Hagee. Part of the squeezed middle-class, they resent any notions of affirmative action based on race. They hate feeling blamed for the sins of their forefathers. The notion of structural or institutional racism leaves them indifferent. Among some, the term "elitist" has become a populist codeword that updates the old definition of "uppity."

Faludi ignores these realities as thoughtless inventions of pundits. But her current argument comes close to courting – and rechanelling – the very backlash voters she has written eloquently about in the past, away from the white woman and towards the black man.

In Faludi’s apparent new archetype of the successful woman, if this takes a little pandering and brawling, the message is: bring it on. Clinton "has been converting white males, assuring them that she’s come into their tavern not to smash the bottles but to join the brawl." Throw back shots at the bar. Finger those guns. Threaten to obliterate Iran. Throw our nuclear protection around those havens of masculinity, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Hillary is a path breaker for future generations of women because she has broken the glass ceiling with her newfound politics of "pugilism".

The evidence is that white male working class voters deserted Al Gore and John Kerry by margins of 20-25 percent, long before Barack Obama entered politics. The reasons for this mass desertion are more complicated than race. Clinton should know, because she and her husband embraced the Wall Street policies of NAFTA, WTO trade rules, and the sweeping deregulations and privatizations that kept middle class people working longer hours for less pay, and drove whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, into ferocious competition over college admissions and secure jobs. There always was a viable option known as anti-corporate economic populism for the Democrats, but that progressive Democratic tradition was "off the table" during the Clinton presidency. Clinton’s new populism on the campaign trail suffered from its appeals to "hard-working whites" and the belligerent threat to nuke and obliterate the enemy in Teheran.

Since when did winning acceptance among traditional white males become such a high priority for a foremost exponent of feminism? Wasn’t it to be the other way around, that all men would gradually shed their patriarchal macho codes and join a common struggle for equality and fairness?

Is this the tone the Clinton campaign – and its most ardent supporters – want to leave behind? It’s one thing to recognize that the idealism of social movements has to be complemented by a tough realism in contests for political power. But it’s another to celebrate brawling, and condemn the press for "primly thumbing the pages of Queensberry" and "scolding" Clinton for – here Faludi uses quotations – being "ruthless" and "dirty." Faludi seems to come full circle, accusing the press of becoming too traditionally female. Anyone watching FOX or CNN, will wonder where exactly Faludi finds these cowering wimps. How about George Stephanopoulos serving as a messenger boy for FOX and Hillary in their accusations about Obama’s alleged ties to the Weather Underground?

Let’s be absolutely clear. Obama can win the presidency if he loses the white working class by the same wide margin as Al Gore if he adds 4-5 million new young Obama voters, keeps 90 percent of the African-American vote, and wins a majority of Latinos. He should win moderates and pro-choice voters by exposing McCain’s zero support for Planned Parenthood positions. He can expect to do very well among all voters with his alternatives to Iraq, economic recession, and right-wing court appointments wrapped into his theme of change.

Obama’s support among white males has declined under the hammering of the Clintons, but he still has won white male majorities in ten of 23 states since January. He took 52 percent of the white male vote in Virginia before the negative attacks began, and still held 42 percent of those white males in North Carolina and Indiana [where Republicans could enter the Democratic primary. There still is plenty of opportunity to increase those white male numbers with a message about Iraq and the recession.

An interesting question is whether Hillary Clinton and her most ardent supporters can shift from brawling against Barack to embracing him wholeheartedly as the nominee. To celebrate Clinton’s brawling at just the moment she appears to have lost means it will take weeks, or longer, to repair the internal damage, learn from the experience, and move forward. The numbers suggest that the Clinton forces can be decisive in Obama’s winning or losing in November. And that would perpetuate a schism for a long time to come.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Discussing Diversity in the Rockies

Photo: Sergeant Michael Esters, Larimer County Sheriff’s office

Facing Obama
and the Issues

in Colorado

[Taking a road break in a small mountain town high above Denver this week, I'm sitting on a sidewalk bench wondering how the 2008 campaign is having an impact on this remote area. Then I spot the headline in the local weekly, 'Facing Race' with a cutout mask of Obama, on how to talk about the issue. There are three articles, including this one. --Carl Davidson ]

By Marissa Gavel
Rocky Mountain Chronicle

The discussion starts with instant rice for Sergeant Michael Esters.

"I was in a grocery store here, and I found this product that I really liked. I’ve been a bachelor for most of my life, and I really like this [brand of rice]," says the soon-to-be-married Esters.

Except Esters’ product of choice became unavailable, and his only option was a bright orange box with a grinning black man on the front, wearing the kind of smile his black ancestors were made to wear in an effort to hide the truth. Esters has a serious problem with Uncle Ben.

"I have always felt that products like that are really a poor representation of African Americans, and date back to the servant or slave culture, and I do not want to support those images. So I am not going to buy products with those images on the front," he says, in a calm tone that belies his Hulk-sized biceps, dark blue combat shirt and close-cut hair.

"It was really difficult for [the store manager] to understand why I wanted to buy that other product, why it was important," Esters explains. "I don’t want to special order a product. I want you to understand that many people, not just African Americans, but white Americans as well, find that offensive."

(Mars, Inc., which owns the Uncle Ben’s brand, promoted the character to the "chairman of the board" in 2007 to try to dispel such associations.)

Esters has lived in Fort Collins for fourteen years. His monologue has yet to turn into a dialogue with shop owners who just don’t seem to understand what he thinks would be an obvious point to make in a discussion about product labels and consumer choice. But the lack of conversation about ethnic and racial issues is nothing new for 47-year-old Esters, who was raised in a family of four in Germany and then Nebraska. He’s used to being the only black man in a sea of white people, and he has come to recognize that beginning a conversation about rice is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ethnic differences in predominantly white communities.

"I don’t think there is a conversation," he says. "I think a few people in Larimer County are concerned with diversity and issues of racism, but for the most part I think that the dominant culture feels that it’s not something that affects them, or is not an important issue at this time. So I don’t think that we are having those types of conversations."

As the only black person in the sheriff’s office, he has had conversations with himself about what it means to climb the ranks to train and enforce laws his military father raised him to believe in. And yet he admits that he wouldn’t ask another African-American man to try to help him fulfill these very opportunities.

"I’ve just found that if I want to find a job, I’m not going to go to a person of color to find a job, because they’re not in charge," he says, matter-of-factly. "I’m going to have to go someplace where, chances are, I’m going to have to deal with somebody who’s white. They’re who I’m going to be asking for a job, and they are who I am going to be competing against for a job. If you grow up outside of your community — for example, here, where you’re the only African American — stereotypes and cultural division become the forefront. "I’m dealing with no one who looks like me, no one at all. The odds are that somebody in there will have a problem with me. Somebody across the table looking at me while I’m applying for that job is going to have some kind of issue with my ethnicity. Odds are pretty good."

The odds are also favorable that Esters’ opinions are taken as those of the token black man, a spokesman for his entire race in conversations from music to sports. "They want you to respond and act in a way that will kind of confirm whatever their stereotypes are, so you find yourself in that position of speaking out for an entire group of people," he says.

"What I find curious is that there are people who say, ‘I’m colorblind. I don’t see a difference. Everybody’s the same.’ But in the next sentence, they’re asking you for your opinion, in your ethnicity, as it relates to sports, or your opinion on Obama, or whatever. How do you answer that? I guess tongue in cheek. What sport? Are we talking about luge? Are we talking about tennis? Swimming?"

Tongue in cheek isn’t Esters’ style. He is too focused. Even when telling a joke, he maintains his composure and steady eye on the person he is telling it to, not necessarily to gauge their approval — he doesn’t seem to need it — but just to keep them in his sights.
In the end, Esters believes that promoting diversity and quelling racism calls for a family meeting.

"Understanding that diversity and racism are issues that have to be addressed by not only people of color, but by everybody. Understanding that we are a community, and a community is another name for a family," he says. "We are as strong as we want to be. If you are successful in the community, I’m successful. I have to invest in you. Your problems have to be my problems. They can’t be your problems that I’m helping you with. They have to be our problems.

"One of the things that Obama said in his speech — and I’ll tell ya, I think he stole it from me — is that if this problem of racism and bigotry is something that we can’t solve, we can’t solve anything else. We’re sunk. Imagine what we could do if we could solve this problem. We’re moving at a snail’s pace as far as everything that’s important is concerned. If we could beat this one issue, everything else would pale in comparison."


Limbaugh and
Racism in NC
and Indiana

By John K Wilson
May 06, 2008

The Limbaugh Effect in Indiana and North Carolina was real, but fairly small; however, it was enough to reduce Obama's margin of victory in North Carolina, and it easily provided enough votes to give Clinton her 23,000-vote margin of victory in Indiana.

According to exit polls, in Indiana, among the 11 percent who described themselves as voting Republican in the past, Clinton won 53-45 percent, not much different from Clinton's support among Democrats. However, due to fears about possible legal action against Republicans trying to subvert the Democratic primary, it's possible that Limbaugh listeners either lied about their party identification or who they voted for.

There are other ways to try to measure this. Overall, 16 percent of Indiana voters called themselves conservatives, and 65 percent supported Clinton (among the 4 percent who were very conservative, Clinton won approximately 70 percent). Also, in an Obama-McCain match-up, 19 percent of the Indiana voters would vote for McCain, and of these 87 percent had voted for Clinton. By contrast, in a projected Clinton-McCain match-up, 17 percent would vote for McCain, and only 58 percent of them had voted for Obama.

What does this mean?

Basically, about 7 percent of the overall voters said they voted for Clinton but support McCain no matter what. About 2 percent of the voters voted for Obama but support McCain against either case. Taking these numbers into account, I would guess that approximately 5 percent of the Indiana electorate in the Democratic primary consisted of Republicans seeking to vote against Obama to create chaos in the Democratic Party.

Openly racist voters were a bigger factor. Fully 10 percent of the Indiana voters in the exit polls were whites who said that race influenced their voting, and 79 percent of these voters supported Clinton. So approximately 8 percent of the voters in Indiana were whites voting against Obama because of race (of course, many of these racists may be Limbaugh listeners).

As in previous primaries, gender helped Clinton in Indiana while race hurt Obama. Among the voters who said that gender was not a factor in their vote, Clinton and Obama split the vote equally. It was women voting for Clinton because of her gender that created her likely margin of victory in Indiana.

In North Carolina exit polls, the Limbaugh effect was equally powerful, and perhaps even more so. There were more self-described conservatives (22 percent), and they voted 51-42 percent for Clinton, but among the 8 percent who were "very conservative," Obama actually won by a small margin. About 6 percent of the voters were self-described Republicans (and they supported Clinton 56-35 percent). However, it's odd that self-described Independents split evenly between Obama and Clinton, while Obama won Democrats easily, which is the reverse of the case in Indiana and many other states. This suggests that some of the dittoheads in North Carolina were calling themselves independent.

The Limbaugh effect becomes clear in this stat: 19 percent of the voters said they would support McCain in a match-up against Obama, and 82 percent had voted for Clinton; that means they were disgruntled voters who say they may not support the other Democrat. But of the 15 percent who would support McCain in a match-up against Clinton, only 45 percent had voted for Obama. This means that a large proportion of the anti-Clinton voters voted for her, and that's the Limbaugh effect. I would estimate that around 5 percent of the voters in North Carolina were Republicans who voted for Clinton despite hating her.

In North Carolina, racism was less of a factor than in other states, while sexism was a bigger factor. 9 percent of the voters were whites who said race impacted their vote, and 59 percent supported Clinton. That's a net of only 5-6 percent racist voters, less than in Indiana. By contrast, 21 percent of voters said gender was a factor and Obama was supported by them 52-43 (however, Obama's margin was even larger among those who said gender was not a factor). Interestingly, as a total number, more women said that gender was a factor and voted against Clinton than men who did so.

Hillary Clinton wrote in an email to her supporters, "This victory is your victory, this campaign is your campaign, and your support has been the difference between winning and losing." Let's hope she sent that message to Rush Limbaugh, who did more than anyone to give her a victory in Indiana.

Overall, the North Carolina and Indiana exit polls show that the Limbaugh effect is real and does affect the final margins. But the exit polls also show that racism and sexism are alive and well in American voting, even within the Democratic Party. Obama will be the Democratic nominee, and we will need to find a way to defeat racism along with John McCain in the November elections.

[Note: I'm the author of a new book, Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest, but I'm not part of the Obama campaign.]


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